The Michigan men's soccer team has been struggling offensively at the start of the season despite critical lineup changes. Jenna Hickey/Daily. Buy this photo.

On Monday night, the Michigan mens soccer team (2-4-2) played Oakland (0-5-2) to a 0-0 draw at the UM Soccer Stadium. 

The Wolverines’ offense, catalyzed by freshman forward Nicholas Cassiday and junior midfielder Bryce Blevins, was able to generate a myriad of chances against its winless opponent, but ultimately couldn’t capitalize and were held scoreless for the fifth time this season.

Michigan peppered Golden Grizzly goalkeeper Michael Sly Jr. with a dizzying 27 shots – 10 on goal – and came mere inches from finding the back of the net several times.  

“I don’t even know the shot count in that second half,” Michigan coach Chaka Daley said. “Certainly a lot to a little. We were unfortunate.”  

In the 38th minute, a free kick from senior midfielder Inaki Rodriguez ricocheted off both Sly’s outstretched gloves and the crossbar, before bouncing harmlessly out of bounds and inducing a collective gasp from the packed maize and blue stands.

Cassiday was unmarked in the box in the 54th minute and struck a laser destined to give his team the lead, but the six-foot goaltender was in the correct position to snag it out of the air.

“I don’t think we particularly played great,” Daley said. “But I think we created enough chances to give us an opportunity to win.”

By the midway point of the first half, Michigan took majority control of possession, keeping Oakland’s defenders busy through the rest of the match. 18 of the Wolverines’ 27 shots came in the latter half of the game.

An eventual goal seemed imminent, but as shot after shot careened wide, banged off the posts or was deflected off of a Golden Grizzly defender, the reality of a stalemate began to set in and the home crowd grew silent. Eight contests into the year, and you can still count the total number of goals Michigan has scored this season on one hand. 

“We did everything right except score,” Daley said. “If we weren’t creating chances, I’d be very worried … we’re just a little bit snake bitten at the moment.” 

Besides the continuous offensive frustration, the game was defined by a surprising and unforeseen change in net for the Wolverines.

Sophomore Hayden Evans – who notched his first career start and win last season versus Oakland – watched from the sidelines. It’s an unfamiliar perspective for the former Big Ten All-Freshman team awardee. Junior Ethan Wood got the nod in his place, seeing game action for the first time since 2020. He demonstrated impressive reflexes and poise in the game’s final twenty minutes, leaping upwards and knocking away two point-blank shots to keep the game scoreless. Daley praised the veteran following his clean sheet.

“Ethan has been a great servant to the program and he deserved the opportunity,”  Daley said. “I thought he did well … made two good saves in the second half that were very important.” 

When asked which keeper would start Friday’s game at Northwestern, Daley smiled and remarked:

“I don’t know, we’ll see.”

No matter who’s in net, the Wolverines won’t find much success if they can’t start converting chances into goals.